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Psyche Delicacies: Coffee, Chocolate, Chiles, Kava, and Cannabis, and Why They're Good for You Hardcover – November, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Need a lift? Human beings have always been attracted to "psychoactivity," says author Chris Kilham, and have searched out mind-altering and mood-modifying plants throughout history. Psyche Delicacies explores the five most commonly used psychoactive plants: coffee, chocolate, chiles, kava, and cannabis. All are "exquisite works of nature" that "can fit well into a healthy, active lifestyle with little or no harmful effects," writes Kilham, a biological researcher and author of several books, including Tales from the Medicine Trail.

"We are built for pleasure," writes Kilham, who approaches his subject with passion. "Coffee is good for you, good for you, good for you." Chocolate is the "blissful food of the gods." Kava is the "peace plant of paradise." Hell is a place with eternally bad coffee. Kilham describes the history, lore, chemistry, cultivation, and benefits of his chosen plants, including his own personal experiences with them. (You'll never forget to wash after handling chiles after reading about Kilham's restroom experience!) He is opinionated ("I cannot in good conscience say anything good about decaffeinated coffee") and teeming with fervor. If you love any or all of these psychoactive plants, Psyche Delicacies is as entertaining as it is educational, and a terrific gift book. --Joan Price

From the Inside Flap

In Psyche Delicacies, globetrotting medicine hunter Chris Kilham presents passionate portraits of five widely used psychoactive plants that, he argues, have affected the course of human history. From the lush coffee orchards of Hawaii's Kona Coast to the cannabis-covered hills of the Indian Himalaya, Kilham takes readers along on a world tour to meet the people and places that make coffee, chocolate, chiles, kava, and cannabis what they are to us today. Employing evocative and sometimes provocative prose to weave history, folklore, and science into a dazzling whole, Kilham presents a mind-expanding case for the enthusiastic, guilt-free use of these much-loved plants and their various preparations.

Few adults haven't partaken of at least one of the featured psyche delicacies, and that's the author's point. Maintaining that we all can benefit from the reverie induced by consuming these mood-altering plants, Kilham presents clinical and academic evidence to handily dispatch the notion that these agents of nature, taken in moderation, are some-how bad for us. Instead, he asserts that they refresh both body and mind, helping us to achieve the very highest order of healthfulness.

Whether you are an avid coffee drinker, a hot-chile devotee, a casual cannabis user, or just curious, you'll be surprised and delighted by all you experience when you read Psyche Delicacies.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Press; First Edition edition (November 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579543472
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579543471
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I thought this book was a decent read, and the author definitely knows how to entertain and pique people's interest. But this book seems to have been targeted to the wrong audience or placed in the wrong genre.
Clearly it's travel writing. It's the story of a guy who toured the earth in search of the ultimate buzz. I just wish the author, and/or his publisher, had realized that. This book would have gotten a lot more readers, and fewer complaints about lack of citations or scientific merit, if it had been titled "Journeys of the Mind: Across the world in serach of the ultimate buzz" (or something like that but a little less cheesy), and shelved next to the Lonely Planet guides. If he'd continued on in this theme, adding discussions of a few more drugs and adding another hundred pages or so, TONS of crunchy granola types would pick it up, anticipating long waits in Indian train stations and long days on Thai beaches.
Chris Kilham is clearly not a scientist or a health care professional. People looking for the hard-nosed opinions of such people shouldn't be looking at his book. He's an adventurer and an entertainer. His writing reads like a show on the Discovery Channel, and is clearly intended for people whose interest in science goes little deeper than the Discovery Channel.
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Format: Hardcover
This lively book is fun to read and will supply you with a lot of interesting factoids on its assortment of topics. Chris Kilham writes interestingly and well, and one's attention is riveted to his stories and opinions. The biggest problem with this book is that there are no footnotes and no endnotes. Kilham offers a lot of stunning notions, but does not cite his sources. For example, in his chapter on decaf, in his view "coffee interruptus," he asserts that the rate of suicide is higher among drinkers of decaf than drinkers of caffeinated coffee. Citation, please!
Read this book for its stimulating opinions and lively patter and a sort of pop-sci approach to its subjects. According to its author, this book is intended as a reference work. It's fun to page through, but in order to be a convincing reference work it needs the added muscle of citations and a bibliography.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read many adventure travel books, and explorations into ethnobotany, I am a hard marker on books in this genre. I was impressed with Kilham's writing style, narrative drive, ability to quickly sketch colorful characters, and skill at connecting the lives of indigenous peoples and their herb lore to the jaded first-world reader. (He also doesn't skimp on the supporting science, but doesn't bog the reader down in it.) I learned a lot about coffee,chocolate, pot, and other psychoactive plants/pleasures, and had fun doing it. Highly recommended, as a perfect hybrid of adventure travel (replete with very amusing misadventures) and healthy mood-aleration.
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